While House Republicans push to eliminate new net neutrality regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced Monday he will introduce legislation to make violations of net neutrality a crime.
"I'm introducing a new bill that would call violations of net neutrality out for what they are - anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws," Franken said at this year's South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.
"We don't allow big corporations to use their size to bully their competition, and my bill would make it clear that this applies to telecoms that use their power to control the Internet."
House Republicans are pushing for a resolution to eliminate net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in December 2010.
The new rules are meant to "preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet" but Republican critics have said the regulations amount to a "government takeover of the Internet."
Republicans "plan to use a Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse it entirely, giving the telecoms an explicit permission slip to move ahead with paid prioritization and any other scheme they can concoct," Franken said.
He claimed that opponents of net neutrality had confused the public about what the term actually means. Franken explained that net neutrality means Internet content "moves at the same speed no matter what it is or who owns it."
"So an email from President Obama and an email from your Tea Partier uncle come in at the same speed," Franken elaborated. "You can buy a song from an indie band just as quickly as you can buy a song from a band on a major label. And if you start a website for your small business, your customers can have their orders processed just as easily with you as they could if they were buying from a multi-national conglomerate."
"We have net neutrality right now," he added. "And we don't want to lose it. That's all."
Franken warned that without net neutrality legislation, the corporations that own the physical infrastructure of the Internet could act as "gatekeepers" by allowing faster access to certain content and slower access to other content.
"If these companies aren't already doing these things now, rest assured that this is their plan," he said. "In the end, the American people will end up paying a lot more money for worse service and less content. They'll hear from a lot fewer viewpoints. They'll have a lot less freedom to choose what they want to see and hear and do online."